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Along the Atlanta Beltline, grim picture of affordable housing coming to light

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Tensions have been growing surrounding affordability and gentrification, but in-depth report finds that little has been done to stop it

For many, a walk around Old Fourth Ward—packed with new homes and high-end apartment buildings—highlights the positive impact the Beltline can have on a neighborhood.

But for those who live in neighborhoods where the Beltline will one day snake through (or where it exists now), the changes the trail has brought are a cautionary tale: Unaffordable days are ahead (or they’re here right now).

In the past 12 years, average rents have increased a staggering 59 percent in the eastside neighborhood. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in collaboration with GSU, UGA, Emory University, and Kennesaw State University students, completed an in-depth look into the rising prices, their impact on longtime residents, and the lack of affordable housing along the Beltline.

The results are disheartening.

When the Beltline was first getting off the ground in the early 2000s, major goals were to ensure housing equity and combat the ill effects of gentrification, while bringing new life into parts of the city that had seen little investment in years. An Affordable Housing Trust Fund was established, down payment assistance programs were created, and the Beltline committed to building thousands of affordable units.

However, along the way there have been countless bumps in the road. Money allocated for development of affordable housing was never spent; city-funded residences intended for low-income residents quickly became out of reach; and few plans were installed to effectively track displacement and affordability.

As seen in this photo essay from last month, the Beltline’s three-mile Westside Trail is nearing completion.
Curbed Atlanta

Last year, two key members of the trail’s board of directors—including the Beltline’s original visionary, Ryan Gravel—got so fed up with the lack of transparency and action they resigned.

While the issue of affordable housing is startlingly important, there still doesn’t seem to be a plan in place to combat the rising costs of living. And even if the Beltline’s target of 5,600 affordable units by 2030 is met, experts agree that that figure represents just half of what would be required.

With Atlanta’s housing market tight, intown rents still on the rise, and progress on the Beltline pushing ahead, it seems those living along the trail’s future corridor (and especially renters) are destined for higher prices and possible displacement.